Hot Chip is the precocious U.K. outfit that's gonna split listeners down the middle like a sharp ax through cordwood. The slow-bumping, lo-fi reverie of Coming on Strong is so calculatedly fuzzy and detached that it begs the same questions of hip-hop authenticity that LCD Soundsystem did to dance: Are these guys serious? Are they sincere? Can I seriously, sincerely like this stuff and not feel duped by disaffection in the end?
If you can go without answers, if you can take in these microfine Jeep beats and just relax into Hot Chip's wit, then dig in. You certainly won't be offended co-vocalists Joe Goddard and Alex Taylor are so laid-back that they're almost lying down, their bleached-out suburban lilt hypnotizing in its tea-time reserve, like a b-boy Nick Drake (!). Their instrumental accompaniment dippy drum-machine beats, chilly slices of organ grind, assorted digital peanut gallerying doesn't exactly overwhelm either. But other signs of life disembodied saxophone, languid bass soloing, and... is that banjo? draw out the laptop dance party in these slyly sophisticated tunes. Somehow, that minimalism smacks less of coyness than a fully realized, insistently likable style. Just as Taylor, um, raps on "Keep Fallin'": "Give up, all you suckers/We the tightest motherfuckers/And you've never seen this typa shit before now." True that. Purists will scoff, but when the sonics condense enough to allow it, the liberated just might get up and shake a leg. Or, more likely, sit back and tap a toe.